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Links to Think: 09.17.12

September 17, 2012

How to Buy a Daughter – Gender selection isn’t just something “made in China” (or elsewhere around the world). It’s happening here in America.

“The conventional wisdom has always been this: Given a choice, couples would prefer sons. That has certainly been the case in places like China and India, where couples have used pregnancy screening to abort female fetuses. But in the United States, a different kind of sex selection is taking place: Mothers like Simpson are using expensive reproductive procedures so they can select girls.

Just over a decade ago, some doctors saw the potential profits that could be made from women like Simpson—an untapped market of young, fertile mothers. These doctors trolled online forums, offering counseling and services. They coined the phrase “family balancing” to make sex selection more palatable. They marketed their clinics by giving away free promotional DVDs and setting up slick websites.

These fertility doctors have turned a procedure originally designed to prevent genetic diseases into a luxury purchase akin to plastic surgery. Gender selection now rakes in revenues of at least $100 million every year. The average cost of a gender selection procedure at high-profile clinics is about $18,000, and an estimated 4,000 to 6,000 procedures are performed every year. Fertility doctors foresee an explosion in sex-selection procedures on the horizon, as couples become accustomed to the idea that they can pay to beget children of the gender they prefer.

Inside a fourth-floor office suite off a palm-tree-lined street in Encino, Calif., in an embryology lab, two men wearing maroon scrubs peer into high-tech microscopes. The men are fertilizing human eggs with sperm samples collected earlier that day. After fertilization and three days of incubation, an embryologist uses a laser to cut a hole through an embryo’s protective membrane and then picks out one of the eight cells. Fluorescent dyes allow the embryologist to see the chromosomes and determine whether the embryo is carrying the larger XX pair of chromosomes or the tinier XY. The remaining seven cells will go on to develop normally if the embryo is chosen and implanted in a client’s uterus.”

“The United States is one of the few countries in the world that still legally allows PGD for prenatal sex selection. The procedure was designed in the early 1990s to screen embryos for chromosome-linked diseases. It is illegal for use for nonmedical reasons in Canada, the U.K., and Australia.

Steinberg’s gender-selection patients are typically around 30 years old, educated, married, middle to upper class. They also typically have a couple of children already, unlike the women in his waiting room undergoing in vitro fertilization and hoping to conceive any child at all.”

““It’s high-tech eugenics,” said Marcy Darnovsky, director of the Center for Genetics and Society, a Berkeley, Calif. nonprofit focused on reproductive technologies. “If you’re going through the trouble and expense to select a child of a certain sex, you’re encouraging gender stereotypes that are damaging to women and girls. …What if you get a girl who wants to play basketball? You can’t send her back.””

Nurturing children: Why “early learning” doesn’t help – The title of the article may be misleading, but the “early learning” referenced in the title refers to away-from-the-parents schooling or daycare during the early years of a child’s life. This article takes a look at some of the detriments of trying to “socialize” young children with their peers too early, and has some direct and indirect implications regarding homeschooling, preschool, daycare, and parent-to-child attachment. Although long, this is a helpful article in understanding child development within the context of children’s “early learning” programs.

“With regards to small children, Dr. Neufeld clarifies one thing that socialization is not: “Probably the greatest myth that has evolved is this idea that socializing with one’s equals leads to socialization.””

“Premature socialization,” says Dr. Neufeld, “was always considered by developmentalists to be the greatest sin in raising children ….[w]hen you put children together prematurely before they can hold on to themselves, then they become like [the others] and it crushes the individuality rather than hones it.”

“One of the issues with large numbers of little people in group care settings is the issue of peer orientation. This means having small children attach to their peers, rather than to adults.”

“And importantly, our high priority attachment figures (aka the people we see the most of and really love) are intended to be enduring. These are not people who should disappear from our lives, neither are strong attachments something small children should “grow out of.” 

This is one reason why daycare employees can never imitate the potent power of the parent: A job is a job, and employees change cities or jobs with some regularity.”

“If parents aren’t aware of this, they may interpret negative developments as positive. The three-year-old who can’t wait to be with his friends in daycare may in fact be on his way to becoming peer rather than parent attached, because being attached makes us want to be with those we are attached to.”

“When small children spend too much time with their peers, they will imitate the features of those they see around them. Dr. Neufeld speaks of a “flatlining” of culture as a result. “We have a children’s culture of today. In Europe, there is a crisis, which is that youth are not integrating into mainstream society and people believe it is happening in North America as well.”

The question might also be whether they are integrating into a newly mainstream culture that is not altogether mature. “Children have become fit for a society that does not reproduce itself and does not contribute to the larger society as a whole,” says Dr. Neufeld.”

“Back in 1988, child psychologist David Elkind wrote The Hurried Child, saying, “we are going through one of those periods in history, such as the early decades of the Industrial Revolution, when children are the unwilling victims of societal upheaval and change….Today’s child has become the unwilling, unintended victim of overwhelming stress.” 

“When asked what are the gains from early learning for small children, Dr. Neufeld simply replies: “I don’t think there is anything to be gained except parental emancipation. And certainly not parental fulfillment. That’s a totally different issue.”

“For Dr. Neufeld, the capacity for healthy relationships is meant to unfold in the first six years of life. “It’s a very basic agenda,” he says. “By the fifth year of life if everything is continuous and safe then emotional intimacy begins. A child gives his heart to whomever he is attached to and that is an incredibly important part….The first issue is always to establish strong, deep emotional connections with those who are raising you. And that should be our emphasis in society. If we did this, we would send our children to school late, not early.””


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  • Charity September 18, 2012 at 3:12 pm

    I’m absolutely dumbfounded by the first article you linked to. Wow! My husband and I have known a few couples who were quite disappointed when having an ultrasound and finding out they were having sons, and they didn’t mind telling everyone how disappointed they were (one of the moms even refusing to eat for a while). I just don’t get this, seriously, I’m confused. Seems like the whole view of life is messed up! Sad.

    • Keren September 30, 2012 at 8:58 pm

      Yes, sad. I can even understand that some people are disappointed by finding out about a certain gender, though don’t necessarily think there are many appropriated ways to discuss that (particularly if it could get back to the children in a way that would be hurtful to them). I fear we want to control far too much of life-many areas in which we were never intended to control; I suppose that is human nature and we always have, but with modern technology, we can “control” and “know in advance” what was for millennia left untouched.